Radiculopathy is a condition that affects many Veterans. If left unaddressed, it can worsen considerably and negatively impact quality of life and the ability to function day to day.
Veterans living with life-changing injuries and pain are entitled to disability compensation. Let’s explore radiculopathy and how a VA rating will determine your level of compensation.
Radiculopathy is a broad diagnosis for the symptoms from a pinched nerve root at the spinal column base. Radiculopathy causes different types of pain, but Veterans usually experience pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness. Usually, radiculopathy does not require any major surgery. Non-surgical treatments can help alleviate some of the symptoms that radiculopathy causes.
Here are the different types of radiculopathy.
Lumbar radiculopathy affects the lower back region. Maintaining a healthy diet and weight, staying fit, and adjusting posture help prevent lumbar radiculopathy.
Berry Law helps Veterans with back conditions get the compensation they deserve.
Thoracic radiculopathy occurs in the upper area of the back, and it is the least common of all radiculopathy.
This form of radiculopathy affects the neck area. It sometimes results in symptoms in the arms and hands.
When the tissue around the nerve root changes, it narrows the area where the nerve roots travel, causing sharp pain, tingling, and weakness in the arms and legs. Physical activity can worsen the symptoms and cause the nerves to flare because they do not have space to move with the inflamed tissue.
In the lower back region, the disks can deteriorate over time, and added pressure and stress from the back can cause the disk to rupture. Because this occurs in the lower lumbar region of the back, radiculopathy can occur and worsen.
As we noted above, radiculopathy does not usually require any sort of extensive surgery. There are many non-surgical methods to help radiculopathy symptoms. Weight loss near the area of the radiculopathy can be one of the first and most effective steps in alleviating any pain. Being overweight can cause the tissue to retract and also make it harder to recover from injury. Medications, such as anti-inflammatories, are also used to manage some of the flare-ups in the nerves. Lastly, physical therapy helps to strengthen muscles and provides a natural way of the body healing itself.
Radiculopathy qualifies as a VA disability, but the VA sometimes imposes conditions. The rating for radiculopathy will depend on the duration, severity, and frequency of the symptoms.
The VA uses specific criteria to determine the rating that the Veteran will receive for radiculopathy. The three categories are paralysis, neuritis, and neuralgia.
Paralysis is when you are unable to make any voluntary muscle movements in the body. Some malfunction in the nervous system usually causes this. There are four degrees of radiculopathy, and these are complete, severe, moderate, and mild. The differing degrees of radiculopathy correspond with the rating received as a disabled Veteran.
Neuritis is inflammation of nerves that are not part of the central nervous system. The VA uses only three degrees of severity to designate a rating: severe, moderate, and mild.
The VA will sometimes not rate neuritis because it is not the complete loss of motion due to nerve damage and is not “as severe as” paralysis. Some cases are so severe that they do get a rating.
Neuralgia is a stabbing pain that is caused by a damaged nerve. This only has two categories of severity, and those are moderate and mild. Usually, this does not get a rating because it is much milder than the other symptoms.
A VA doctor or private physician can diagnose the severity of radiculopathy. They may do several tests to isolate the problem. Scans such as an X-Ray or MRI can usually provide greater insight into symptoms.
When you apply for compensation due to your injuries, a number will be assigned to you to represent your injury. The question is, what does this mean, and how does it affect you? Each injury is given a number and then added together. The overall number that is totaled will determine the compensation you can get because of your disabilities.
We discussed earlier how the severity of the symptoms determines specific numbers for the disability. What is also taken into consideration is the overall efficiency you have given your disabilities. Your ability to perform work or do regular activities will help to evaluate how much money you deserve. If you have no problems and have sustained no injuries, then your efficiency is at 100%. However, if your radiculopathy is rated at 10%, then your overall efficiency is at 90% (100%-10%=90%).
Things get more complicated when multiple injuries add up. When this happens, it is best to use a VA combined ratings table, which can be found here. It is best not to do this manually since the math that is involved is not normal math.
If you have any trouble still with trying to calculate everything, we provide a VA disability calculator. All you have to do is choose the area where there is disability and the percentage that has been given. From there, answer a few questions to help understand your overall situation, and we can provide you with an estimate on how much you should be compensated.
As a Veteran, you are entitled to disability compensation where it is deserved. Though it can be challenging to diagnose an issue and know whether or not it qualifies for VA disability compensation, you can rest assured that radiculopathy does.
The easiest way to determine the type of radiculopathy you have, and the percentage that the severity of the symptoms indicate, is to see a medical professional and have tests done. If you feel any of the related symptoms of radiculopathy, such as pain in the lower or upper back, or even in the neck, it is best to see a professional.
Whether you need to increase your disability rating, need help navigating the VA benefits appeals process, or want to overturn a denied claim, we can help. Contact us today for a free consultation and more information.
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